I am a 25-year-old man who's never been on a date. I suffer from social anxiety and am prone to self-loathing and envy. I am quiet and an introvert, and have spent my entire life without close friends. I have acquaintances from school and work, but I do not have relationships with these people outside of school or the workplace.
I am successful at my job, but I always find myself looking at others laughing with friends, and that makes feel so lonely. I have a supportive family, but what I really missed was having some peers with whom to share an accomplishment. I am the guy who people have seen but no one has noticed. I can only blame myself for that. With social anxiety comes the feeling that nobody likes you or wants you around.
When it comes to romantic relationships, I have never even talked to a woman in a way that is not just friendly. People tell you to put yourself out there, but this is incredibly difficult for me. I have taken the initiative and gone to bars to meet people. However, I just end up sitting by myself as I find myself incapable of approaching anyone. No one wants to have the creepy loner guy approach them. People tell you to be yourself when meeting people. I feel like that is something I have always been doing. I have not made any friends by being myself so I cannot see myself finding date by doing so.
If I ever meet someone, there is still no escaping my inexperience. I would not know what to do. I feel like someone who has just learned how to walk trying to compete with professional athletes in a running race. What chance do I have? It would not take much scrutiny to tell I was no good. I cannot help but feel I have wasted my life. I cannot talk about fun teenage years, summer romances, wild nights, or even amazing friendships. How do I change this?
Two of the most common questions/statements we see in this column are: "I don't know how to meet someone," and "I have no idea what I'm doing." Many people believe their experiences aren't enough – or that they're too much.
I can imagine that without an inner circle, you feel lost, especially when you watch other people's seemingly effortless friendships. Please know that those same people are often thinking, "Am I doing it right?" Also believe me when I say that 25 is young, especially when you consider how much time you've spent building your career.
The most important thing to do is to get some real professional help because it sounds like you need practical skills for improving your social life. Therapists have a lot to offer people with social (and other) anxiety. It's a place where you can practice and contextualize interaction. That kind of work can make day-to-day connections feel more natural.
Also know that you might not find a pack of friends at work – and that's OK. It might be easier to make connections through a club or activity because everyone is there to be social. And let's ditch the bar idea for meeting a significant other. There are so many challenges in that kind of space.
Start with getting help. Ask a doctor/insurance/etc. for specific programs that focus on preparing people for the kind of connection you seek. Remember that you are not competing with athletes. In no way is this a race. Nice people aren't comparing social resumes. They're psyched for good company, and almost everyone has the potential to be that.
Readers? Next steps?